Visual Accountability

Whiteboards?  Really? Seems “old school.”  Well, guess what, they work.  Just like vision boards and any other form of visual accountability, there is a very real and effective emotional connection between having a “picture” that tells you a story versus a report once in a while or the “it’s all in my head” format.

The truth is that every top producer I have had the privilege of working with or discussing their tracking habits, has some form of a visual accountability system. A few of them even display these where their family can see what they are up to and understand the importance of their work.

Monthly commitments like hydro, mortgage payments, loans, business expenses, are all billed with great regularity and you are expected to pay.  Similarly, external accountability of things like Warm or Hot Leads, Listing Prospects, Conditional or Firm Deals makes you take action in a more consistent and urgent manner.

So, how to set these up?  Purchase a couple of white boards: http://www.staples.com/Dry-Erase-Whiteboards/cat_CL166382  and split them into a few distinct sections: Warm/Hot Leads (Buyer or Seller), Active Listings, Conditional Deals, Closed Deals.

Your Leads Board (Warm/Hot) should have the following headings: Name/Source/Motivation.  Of course, the beauty of these systems is that you can make up whatever KPI (Key Performance Indicator) you want but the ones described above are the typical headings that most Realtors use.

The secrets to making this work are; 1) Don’t reinvent the wheel, TSW (This Stuff Works). 2) Make sure they are updated regularly.  The act of putting pen to whiteboard is a big part of embedding your goals and successes into your brain! 3) Mix it up. Use one color for buyers and one for sellers. 4) If you have a team or an assistant, get everyone involved.  If not, share it with your spouse, family.  The more the merrier.

Examples: courtesy of http://www.whiteboard-atoz.com/real-estate-listing-and-sales-board-48-x-96 

 

John Lusink Speaks About Helping Clients Stage Their Homes

So, you’ve agreed with your client on a listing price; you’ve taken photos of your client’s home; you’ve published a listing; and along with publishing a listing, you’ve published an open house date. Such an incredible amount of work. But, now after all that work has been done, you, as the agent or broker, can kick up your feet and rest until the day of the open house, right? Well, as we all know, the answer is no – the work is not quite over yet. One very crucial step is missing – and that step is preparing your client’s house aesthetically for the eyes of all those prospective buyers who will walk through that door come open house. In other words, the missing step, the step that is a necessity prior to any home showing, is “staging” the home.

Now, naturally everyone has their aesthetic preferences, and, indeed, some agents may differ greatly in what they feel correctly staging a home entails. However, despite the room for subjective opinion on the matter, there are certain core tasks that should always be completed in order to properly stage a home.

In order to help experienced and inexperienced agents alike, I’d like to go over a few very basic tasks that are critical to preparing a property for a showing.

Depersonalize the home as much as possible

Temporarily ridding your client’s home of a portion of his or her personal items helps stage the home in two ways: one, it helps remove clutter, which is arguably the greatest enemy to successfully preparing a property to show; second, depersonalizing a home provides prospective buyers a much easier opportunity to visualize how their belongings will look in the home.

Now depersonalizing the seller’s home does not mean that every single item of the seller’s has to be removed from the premises. Instead, focus on temporarily removing such things as family photos and quirky decorations and out-of-the-ordinary furniture pieces.

Beyond that, some industry experts recommend that in staging a home, a hotel-chic aesthetic should be strived for. What exactly is a “hotel-chic” aesthetic? Well, just think of some of the style elements found in a typical hotel room and think of how that can be applied to a residential home.

So, to that point, in addition to removing clutter from the home and depersonalizing it, consider adding crisp, new hand towels to the bathroom; or consider adding a few bars of designer soap in the bathroom too; and beyond that, investing in matching ensembles, such as matching trays and waste baskets and tissue holders, is never a bad idea.

Don’t Forget “Curb Appeal” Staging

As it goes, sometimes we’re so focused on perfecting the interior of the house prior to prospective buyers visiting that we forget that the exterior of house is in many ways even more important. The term “curb appeal” is bandied about in the real estate world so often in part because the front of the home is the first thing a prospective buyer sees.

So, keep curb appeal in mind when staging a home and ensure that the front of the home – the area of the front yard all the way to the home’s front door – looks as clean and tidy as possible.

If a little bit of work is needed to rake some leaves and pick up any pieces of trash, then you or the seller can probably do that on your own. However, if more work is needed in order to heighten the home’s curb appeal, then consider hiring a gardener to quickly come and mow the line and trim the hedges and complete all the other exterior tasks that need to be done.

How Does the Kitchen Look Again?

As most agents and brokers should know, probably the most important room in any home – the room that garners the most amount attention from a buyer – is the kitchen. It’s for this reason why, when staging a home, the kitchen must be a focus of your efforts.

If the home needs any sort of major aesthetic upgrades prior to the open house, and if there happen to be budgetary constraints, then, monetarily, the kitchen should be first in line. Above all, regardless if kitchen upgrades are needed or not, make sure that at the time of the open house, every square centimeter of the home’s kitchen counter is free of clutter.

Call On An Expert

Now let’s face it, we as real estate agents and brokers know a thing or two about pricing a home and closing deals and networking with prospective clients. But, there are probably others in different industries who are more knowledgeable when it comes to interior design and styling and all the other core skills associated with successfully staging a home.

That’s all to say that you as an agent should never feel that it will reflect poorly on you if you reach out to others who can help you better stage a home. If you happen to have a friend or acquaintance who is an interior designer, then consider asking them to visit the property prior to the open house, so that they can offer their opinion on what else needs to be done to the home’s interior in order to better stage it. Alternatively, there are organizations, such as the Real Estate Staging Association, or RESA, who specialize
in home staging and who offer not only literature on how to properly stage a home, but directories of professional home stagers, some of whom may be in your area.

Yes, staging a home is a critical step to selling it, but always know that there are experts on the matter and resources out there that will help you stage a home perfectly.

The Economics of the Modern Income Property by John Lusink

If you’ve kept up-to-date recently on the latest real estate news, you probablycame across several headlines mentioningAirBNB, a website that’sreceived an increasing amount of press recently. AirBNB is a site that connects travelers who need lodging in their destination city with individuals who have available residential space and who are willing to provide it for a fee. For travelers, staying in someone’s apartment or home provides a cheaper and arguably more authentic way to experience a new city compared to the traditional route of staying at a hotel.

Now the originalintention of the site was pretty anodyne – connect hosts with travelers. However,as the site has grown in popularity in the past several years and as people have discovered that they can make a tidy profit from renting out their propertyon AirBNB, to the ire of city governments and hotel chains everywhere, it’s led some people to buy residential property, like a home or a condo, solely for the purpose of listing it on the website. City governments claim that this growing trend is leading to an artificial and unfair increase in rents, but that’s a topic for a separate discussion.

Regardless of whether city governments have a valid point, I think thissubjectprovides a neat segue into a broader discussion onthe risks and rewards associated with buying a residential property for investment purposes. Buying a property for investment purposes means that you intend not to live in the new property, but either rent it out or “flip” it for (hopefully) a nice chunk of change.

Here’s the thing – we all know that buying a residential property is a major investment. But, buying a propertyfor investment purposescarries with it a whole new layer of complexity, as well as additional risks and questions that need to be asked before you make the big investment plunge.
With that said, here are some basic tips on what you need to consider prior to purchasing an investment property.

Before You Buy Anything, Ask Yourself What You’re Going To Do With The Investment Property
The first step in purchasing an investment property is determining what type of investment you’re going to turn the property into. Are you going to immediately resell it for a profit? Are you interested in something more long-term in which you’ll rent out the property to tenants?Make this determination first before you do anything else.

If You’re Going to Rent Our Your Property, Then Create a ProposedProfit vs. Cost Model
Okay, so you decided to rent out your investment property. If that’s the case, then prior to deciding what property to buy,make sure that the numbers add up. Will the rent the tenants pay you, combined with any associated home owner costs, be less than the mortgage you owe on the house after its purchase? If so, then you’ll have a failing investment on your hands. So, before purchasing a property, take a look at the average rent prices in the area you’re looking at and compare these to the average mortgage rates. If the numbers are uneven, then consider looking for an investment property in a different area.

If This Is Your First Investment Property, Then Stay Local
If you decide to rent out your investment property, that doesn’t mean you can wipe your hands clean of it once you find reliable tenants. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. You own the property and now you’ve become the landlord. That means that it’syour responsibility to fix any repairs that the property may need and resolve any issues the tenants may have with the property. So, unless you have an assistant to handle all these tasks, buy a property that is close enough for you to conveniently drive to.

Always Have Emergency Funds On Hand
This is a fundamental rule for all home buying experiences, regardless if it’s for an investment purpose or otherwise. We all know how costly owning a home can be. And remember, even if you’re renting out a home, you’re not only responsible for any home repair costs, you are also still responsible for any associated home owner fees. Therefore, make sure you have enough capital set aside to cover fees and unexpected costs.

The Realtor’s ‘Code’

The CREA, or Canadian Real Estate Association, has over one hundred thousand individual members and 100 boards / associations, and works on behalf of its members as well as the Canadian public.

CREA has been tracking and measuring the level of professionalism in Canadian real estate for decades.

The ‘REALTOR® Code’offers strict standards of professional conduct for its members, protects the rights of buyers and sellers, and advocates for government legislation to benefit both.

In 1913, the Canadian Real Estate Association established their first code of ethics. The first member-approved version, voted upon by its members, came in 1959.

As with any working document, this code has been revised time and time again. Real estate, as any industry, continually has changes in its industry and the code needs to change in order to reflect that.

But what has happened outside of the industry has come to be pertinent to the code as well.
Changes in society and its values, as well as changing dynamics for property owners, property sellers and the real estate agents themselves have further influenced changes to the code.

What’s this ‘code’ all about?

Well, as with any profession, there needs to be a set of standards to which the professionals are accountable. A lot of common sense items are in here, basic professional tenants and fundamental courtesies. Such items that the code covers or requires are:

• Basic codes of ethics
• Standard for conscientious, skilled service
• Abiding by compliance (including board bylaws, statutory requirements, and co-operation)
• Keeping abreast of current essential facts
• Discovery of facts
• Respecting rules around disclosure forboth the realtor and their agency (this includes disclosure of roles and disclosure of benefits to all)
• Responsibilities and duties to clients
• Avoiding controversies, discrediting others, and discrimination issues.

The code expands beyond these fundamentals to more specific professional issues such as:

• Transaction and service agreements
• Respecting of contractual relationships
• Transactional expenses
• Parameters around outside professional advice
• Personal interest
• Rules around advertising content, accuracy, and listings
• Arbitration details

So, the code covers basic ethical and moral obligations such as integrity, competence and dedication. It then reaches beyond this to address basic legal requirements. In fact, some may say that the CREA Code sets obligations that are higher than what the law demands, although if the code and law ever went to court, the law would win every time!

Not only does this Code serve to set high standards of professional conduct for real estate agents and their agencies, but it protects everyone’s rights, and builds trust between the profession and its clients.

It is a condition of membership to CREA that all realtors agree to abide by this strict standard of conduct, this Code.

Target Market Basics, Part Two

Our society is bombarded by information all day, every day. People have learned to disregard the information that doesn’t suit them. Most people can, very quickly, decipher whether a message is relevant to their needs, desires.

People fundamentally want to:

• ease their pain
• solve their problems
• realize their dreams

Since reading our first blog, you have developed a clear picture of your target market. Now you need to know where to find this demographic and how best to market to them.

To learn where your ideal client is, find out where they gather, what they read, where they spend their free time, and what level of technology they’re comfortable with. Get informed about their interests, needs, and motivations.

From there move onto creating the content, making sure that your message suits the medium you chose.

What to say to them? Use the data you’ve gathered about their pain, problems and dreams. Keep in mind that each age group has different collective memories, cultural icons and language expectations.

Age
The older baby boomers still read newspapers, watch television and listen to the radio, so these more traditional places canbe effective places to get your message in front of your audience. Traditional messages will work well here too – this generation saw the advent of the television and grew up with its advertising. They havea traditional attitude around language: a respectful and somewhat formal approach is wise.

Looking at the younger demographics leads us to the internet. Pretty much everyone, unless elderly or really young, isspending time there. For each demographic, it’s important to drill down into this opportunity.

How involved in the cyber worldis your target market?

An older target market hasn’t been weaned on electronics, and may only be comfortable with basics like email and Web 2.0 sites.You need a website regardless of your niche, and it will be especially effective with this demographic.

Things get a bit trickier with younger generations. Young baby-boomers might be on Facebook or Twitter. They may use these platforms to keep in touch or keep up to date, but they probably aren’t tied to them, and aren’t the first places they turn to for information. This group is good with internet searches, navigating websites and finding things online, but are not slaves to the web. Language expectations are likely to lean towards the more conservative.

The thirties and forties demographic is a step up the technological ladder, and they are using mobile devices too. It’s a fine line betweenwho’s savvy and who isn’t, so you may need to do some testing. What’s key here is that this group is likely to reach out to their social networks for information and opinions. The language of this demo is looser, but still solid grammatically.

Facebook and Twitter can be inexpensive places to communicate your message, but you have to be strategic, consistent, and build networks.

Twenties and early thirty-somethings use every conceivable online and mobile platform. They know apps inside out, in fact they build them. This group is Web 3.0 and their information moves at the speed of lightening. Language is very different for this group and anything conservative or formal will be a turn-off.

Education
Generally, the more educated someone is, the more likely they want to educate themselves on any given project. They want valuable information, from experts,that will guide them in their home search.

Location
If marketing to locals, you can refer to local hotspots and use slang for the various neighbourhoods. If marketing to non-locals, you have to spell it out, and work from the general to the specific. Rural vs. urban clients will also require different approaches.

Experience
Has your target market had experience with real estate? Have they bought and sold a home, dealt with a mortgage or the maintenance and repairs that a home requires? If so, they want information about these details. First-time buyers have little idea what they’re getting into, so some education will help them too. It will also help you establish yourself as trustworthy and an expert.

Income and Profession
Of course income level and profession is important to consider. Different professions tend to gather in specific places in the real and cyber world. There are also trade shows and publications specific to each profession. Very formal language may appeal to high-level executives, but it will turn off blue-collar workers and (alternatively) rock stars!

Measure
Make sure to measure the results of your marketing strategy and adapt and adopt as needed.

Marketing vehicles run the gamut from direct mail-outs, incentives, through traditional media streams, to the online world and mobile technology, all the way to the good old-fashioned personal telephone call. Choose your vehicles carefully. Monitor and measure your results, and tweak as needed.

7 Easy Ways to Increase the Value of a Client’s Home

As a professional realtor, it is your responsibility to ensure that your client receives maximum value for the home they wish to sell, which will also lead to a maximum commission for you, of course. By taking this responsibility seriously you prove your worth, and your professionalism. Let’s take a quick look at seven cheap and easy things you can recommend your client do to increase the value of their home prior to placing it on the market.

How to help your client increase the value of their home

In a recent article directed at an audience of potential home sellers, 7 Easy, Inexpensive Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home, at the website PrizeQuestion.com, it was recommended that the home owner spend a bit of cash and elbow grease to improve their home for the appreciation of potential buyers. I could not agree more and, as the professional advisor to the seller, it is your responsibility to make sure they do the things required to get the best possible price for their property.

From the article, here are the 7 Easy Ways to Increase the Value of a Client’s Home

  1. Hire an ethical, professional realtor. You are that professional so do your job for the client and help them understand the marketplace, as well as what potential buyers are looking for.
  2. Hire a Certified Home Inspector – before you try to sell your home. If you do not already have a relationship with a competent, certified home inspector, get busy building one right away. Neither you, the homeowner, nor the eventual buyer will be pleased with unknown problems coming up after the sale has been made.
  3. Clean it up! As you well know, a cluttered home will have little appeal. Some elbow grease and a deep cleaning of the home can do wonders for impressing potential buyers. If your home seller is lazy, you may even need to get in there and help.
  4. Slap some paint on the interior. When considered against potential profit, a few gallons of paint on the interior of the home are cheap indeed. Plus, the “New House” smell that results will be a huge incentive to potential buyers.
  5. Clean up the yards – both front and back. A bad first impression can kill a deal more quickly than anything else. Get those yards cleaned up right away.
  6. Take care of the details – even if you never have before. In other words, DO sweat the small stuff. You’re the pro, so let them know that cracked switch plates and “a few” broken tiles will cost them big time.
  7. Get them out of the way. After the work is done and it is time to show the home, get your client out of the house. You don’t need their “help” selling their home and, as experience will show, they will only get in the way.

It is amazing to me how few homeowners are willing to make these small investments in time and effort to make the house they are trying to sell more appealing. It is even more amazing how few realtors will even suggest them. Take the time to sell them on these 7 Easy Ways to Increase the Value of a Client’s Home and you will not only sell more homes, you will also sell them for a greater price – and a greater commission.

Here is to an ongoing and successful online relationship…
John Lusink, CCIM, Broker of Record & Managing Partner of Royal LePage York North Realty

What are the Keys to a Successful Career as a Realtor?

Key to Success #5: Qualify

When sales people and sales trainers speak of “Qualifying” the customer, they are actually talking about asking questions; trying to find out exactly what the client is looking for in an effort to provide it for them. Call me silly but, when I think of qualifying the customer, I think of listening more than speaking; something I call “active listening.” I think of creating a situation in which I will allow the client to specify exactly what they want and, by listening, helping them to discover what that actually is.

Active listening is the key to qualifying your client

In my experience in the Canadian real estate market, a career that spans nearly 30 years of commercial and residential sales and leasing experience, I have learned that many, if not most, clients do not in fact have a clear understanding of just what they want from their new property. It is through the qualifying process that I help them to discover their own wants and needs, to outline them clearly for themselves and for me, and then help them find the property that will satisfy them. This can only be done through active listening.

To qualify something, according to the dictionary, is to characterize, or stipulate, or specify; to place conditions on that thing to make sure it will measure-up to one’s expectations. Because so many of our clients do not have a clear idea of what is possible, it is up to us, the professional realtor, to help them determine the specifications of the property they are looking for and this can only be done through active listening.

For me, active listening is a measured, purposeful response to the needs of the client. It is trying to understand what they are not saying just as clearly as I understand what they are saying. It is the application of my own knowledge and experience to what I am hearing from my client, which will enable me to ask the questions that will guide them, and me, toward discovering more clearly exactly what they need.

The qualifying process in sales is just that – a process. It is not a simple question/answer session to be gotten through as quickly as possible but instead, at least for the professional sales person, it is a journey of discovery that is led by the sales rep with a goal of discovery for all involved.

Here is to an ongoing and successful online relationship…
John Lusink, CCIM, Broker of Record & Managing Partner of Royal LePage York North Realty